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Rocket Attack on US Ships Kills Jordanian Soldier


Unknown attackers have fired three rockets from a port city in Jordan, killing at least one Jordanian soldier and wounding another. One of the rockets narrowly missed a U.S. Navy ship moored in the port, and another landed across the border in Israel.

One Katyusha rocket sailed over the bow of a U.S. Navy ship in the Red Sea port of Aqaba and slammed into a Jordanian military warehouse nearby, killing a Jordanian soldier, Ahmad Jamal Najdawi, and seriously wounding another Jordanian.

A Jordanian official told the state-run Petra news agency that the second rocket exploded near the Aqaba military hospital, and the third landed across the border near the Israeli town of Eilat.

Petra said an initial investigation indicates that the rockets were fired from a warehouse in Aqaba that was rented a few days ago by four Iraqi and Egyptian men.

A U.S. Navy statement said a rocket flew over the bow of the U.S.S. Ashland and hit a warehouse on a nearby pier, leaving a 2.5-meter hole in the roof of the building.

The statement, issued by the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said two U.S. Navy amphibious ships, the Ashland and the U.S.S. Kearsarge, were in the port of Aqaba at the time of the attack. The statement says no American service members were injured. Both ships left the port immediately after the attack.

The Associated Press news agency quoted an Israeli taxi driver in Eilat saying one of the rockets hit his car but failed to explode. He was slightly injured. Witnesses say the rocket left a large crater in the road just outside the airport fence.

A militant group linked to al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades published a statement on the Internet, but the claim could not immediately be authenticated. The group was one of several that claimed to have carried out last month's bombings in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which killed at least 64 people. It also claimed responsibility for another attack last year in the Sinai resort of Taba.

Egyptian security officials on Friday said police have arrested a fourth suspect in connection to the Sharm el-Sheikh attacks, a man named Hassan el-Arishi. No other details were immediately available.

Jordanian security forces say they have broken up a number of terrorist cells in recent years linked to al-Qaida. Islamic extremists have criticized Jordan and Egypt for their peace deals with Israel and for their close ties with the West.

Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has allied himself with al-Qaida, and has been accused of masterminding some of the deadliest attacks in neighboring Iraq. A Jordanian court sentenced him to death in absentia for the 2002 killing of an American diplomat in Amman.

The Katyusha rocket used in the Aqaba attack is a relatively inaccurate missile system that has long been used by both Palestinian militants and by the Lebanese Shi'ite extremist group Hezbollah.

The Red Sea town of Aqaba is Jordan's only port. Until recent years it was a sleepy beach resort known for scuba diving and snorkeling. But since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it has become an important transport hub for commercial goods headed for Iraq.

Security has been tightened throughout the area in response to the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and last month's deadly bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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